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Playing with Time

Since my students are quickly publishing a small moment story this week, I only had one day (yesterday) to teach a revision strategy. I chose to teach them how to play with time, which is an idea I adapted from Jim Vopat’s Micro Lessons for Writing book.

I gave my students a mini-chart for the lesson, which included three (not four, which Vopat suggests) ways to play with time:

Ways to Play with Time

  • Explode the moment: Write in slow motion using strong images (details), punctuation, and sentence structure to help your reader visualize the moment you’re trying to describe.
  • Flashback: Shift to the past as a way to help your reader understand your narrative.
  • Background: Add history to someone or an event you’re writing about. This might be an additional paragraph embedded into your narrative.
  • I found it helpful for the kids to use this strategy. Many of them decided to include more background information to help their reader understand what they were writing about. However, most decided to explode a moment, which is another way for saying unfold the most important part of your story bit-by-bit-by-bit. I noticed each child using a slightly different strategy. Some played with time on a separate sheet of paper and taped it on. Others played with time by writing more on a post-it, while a few other students wrote their additions in the margins.

    And next it’s on to editing! (I don’t like moving this fast, but that’s what we do the first month of school since we want to take them through the writing process at warp speed. Next month we slow down and really teach personal narrative, bit-by-bit-by-bit.) 😉

    Stacey Shubitz View All

    I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.

    I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

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